A step-by-step guide to effective website localization

A step-by-step guide to effective website localization

Discover the benefits of website localization and learn how to modify your content and marketing strategy to cater to local audiences effectively.

A step-by-step guide to effective website localization

Discover the benefits of website localization and learn how to modify your content and marketing strategy to cater to local audiences effectively.

Customize your site for visitors around the world

From design to translation to best-in-class SEO, Webflow Localization is an end-to-end solution for customizing your site for a worldwide audience.

Learn more
Learn more
Written by
Webflow Team

Website localization transforms your digital outreach by catering your site content to local audiences around the world.

Expanding into international markets is about more than just widening your reach — it’s about forging deep, authentic connections in each locale. With website localization services, you go beyond mere language translations by crafting content that feels inherently familiar to an audience and imbuing it with the richness of local context and cultural nuances. It’s a strategy that boosts engagement and positions your brand as culturally attuned, paving the way for success in new markets.

Read on to learn how to localize your website and capture new markets successfully.

What’s website localization, and why is it important?

Website localization (l10n) adapts your website to mirror different target markets’ unique cultural and linguistic nuances. Beyond literal website translations, localization fine-tunes visual design elements like color schemes and layouts while adapting practical details like currency, date formats, and measurement units to align with the local audience’s preferences and norms.

This strategic adaptation aims to resonate personally with each user by presenting your offerings in an understandable, culturally relevant, and engaging way. At its core, localization makes every user feel that you designed the website with their specific cultural context in mind, which fosters a sense of belonging and increases user satisfaction. And since 76% of consumers prefer to make purchases in their native language, website localization ultimately leads to higher conversion rates. 

How is localization different from globalization, internationalization, and translation?

Localization involves modifying your content, products, and services, whether online or offline. However, similar terms may overlap with localization despite having distinct definitions and purposes, including:

  • Internationalization (i18n). Internationalization is the preparatory step that makes products or content adaptable to different languages, regions, and cultures without losing its essence and structure. For example, rather than hard-coding a specific date format (like MM/DD/YYYY), you can dynamically adjust to the user's locale, displaying a format used in their region, such as DD/MM/YYYY or YYYY/MM/DD. The application adapts to different cultural conventions without requiring extensive changes during localization.
  • Globalization (g11n). Unlike localization, globalization doesn’t focus on adapting to local nuances. Instead, it involves optimizing for an international audience. More of a marketing strategy than a process, you focus on making a product or service universally relevant and efficient so users in different countries and regions can and want to interact with it. A global brand, such as Apple or Android, maintains a consistent presence with minimal adjustments, like SIM versus eSIM options, to cater to varying technical standards.
  • Translation (t9n). Translation converts text from one language to another while preserving the original content’s meaning and context. While it’s critical for localization, translation focuses solely on language conversion. For example, translating a website from English to Spanish means changing the language to suit Spanish-speaking audiences while preserving the original message, tone, and context.

What are the benefits of website localization?

Embracing website localization offers multiple advantages that are crucial for businesses aiming to expand their global footprint, such as:

Higher SEO rankings

Localizing your website optimizes it for region-specific keywords and phrases commonly used in search engines like Google and Bing. This localization leads to better search engine optimization (SEO) and visibility in local search results, drawing in audiences actively searching in their native language.

For example, incorporating popular Japanese search terms into your website will boost its rankings on Japanese search engine results pages (SERPs), which drives more targeted and organic traffic.

Enhanced brand image

Adapting your website to respect and reflect your target audience’s local culture and language demonstrates a commitment to understanding their unique needs and preferences. This level of personalization shows cultural sensitivity and fosters trust and loyalty among your audience, helping create stronger, more meaningful connections with existing and potential customers. Consider how a website that reflects local holidays and traditions in its content and design can significantly improve the audience’s perception of the brand as empathetic and considerate.

For example, an ecommerce platform might adapt its color scheme and imagery to appeal to Japanese cultural preferences. It could introduce red to symbolize excitement and energy and white to create a sense of space and simplicity, aligning the site’s aesthetic with Japanese cultural values.

Expanded audience reach

Each new localized site version opens doors to a new demographic, complete with its own market dynamics and consumer preferences. By breaking down linguistic and cultural barriers, website localization enables you to connect with consumers who might otherwise be inaccessible or not interact with a non-localized website. This enhances your market penetration and brand reach.

Increased customer engagement

When users can navigate your site in their native language and effortlessly comprehend its contents, they’re more likely to interact with your offerings. This increased familiarity leads to longer browsing sessions, more satisfying user experiences, and higher conversion rates.

For example, the ecommerce store localizing for a Japanese audience might showcase products in settings familiar to Japanese customers, using local living contexts and backgrounds in its product images. Doing so enhances product relatability and integrates products into the Japanese lifestyle narrative, making them more appealing to Japanese consumers. Additionally, the brand can reconfigure the website’s layout and visual hierarchy to support right-to-left reading patterns to meet the standard Japanese navigation expectations.

Alignment with local buying habits

Tailoring your website to regional preferences and buying habits includes customizing payment methods, shipping options, product page layouts, and even promotional activities like seasonal discounts. This customization ensures that your website aligns with the local market’s shopping behavior, making it more user-friendly and increasing the likelihood of conversions.

With the example of an ecommerce store localizing for a Japanese market, the platform might update its pricing to include Japanese currency symbols and adopt local pricing conventions for quick comprehension. 

A competitive edge in global markets

By presenting a website that speaks directly to local audiences, your brand distinguishes itself from competitors who have yet to make similar efforts. This strategic approach positions your brand as more accessible and relatable because it resonates with each region’s cultural and practical preferences. Such positioning not only enhances brand loyalty but also helps attract new customers who appreciate the tailored experience.

Such targeted localization efforts help transform a company’s website design into a culturally relevant, user-friendly destination for international customers. It overcomes language barriers and cultural differences to offer an easy-to-navigate, engaging experience that enhances brand loyalty and helps attract new customers who appreciate the tailored experience.

Unlock worldwide scale

Learn how Webflow Localization can help you customize your site for a global audience and drive business growth in this free webinar.

Watch now
Unlock worldwide scale

Learn how Webflow Localization can help you customize your site for a global audience and drive business growth in this free webinar.

Watch now
Watch now

How to implement website localization in 9 steps

Planning your website is as important as the execution. Here are nine website localization best practices to consider so you can create a practical road map to follow.

1. Plan strategically

Effective localization strategy hinges on choosing a target location and effectively understanding its local compliance requirements, including specific laws governing online content, data protection, and privacy. By adhering to these regulations, you help prevent future legal complications and foster trust among the local audience.

After identifying these requirements, draft a comprehensive plan that outlines the project’s scope, objectives, and timeline. This plan should cover aspects of content adaptation and technical adjustments, including both back-end and front-end development, as well as an in-depth analysis of the local market.

For example, a German localization plan would start with translating text into German, using culturally relevant expressions and idioms, and adjusting the tone and style to resonate with German speakers. Regarding technical adjustments, you might need to integrate popular German payment options, such as SEPA Direct Debit, and ensure your site complies with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for data protection and privacy.

2. Conduct thorough market research

Comprehensive market research helps you understand the specific trends, needs, and preferences of your target region and provides you with valuable insights to tailor your website to the local audience effectively.

Additionally, thorough competitor analysis is integral to this research. By examining competitors’ strategies in your target market, you identify what works well and where gaps or opportunities may exist. This analysis helps you pinpoint unique selling points that you can leverage in your marketing strategies to enable better website and brand differentiation in the new market.

For example, suppose you’re localizing your website for the Brazilian market. Your research might reveal that local competitors focus heavily on social media integration and mobile-friendly designs due to high mobile device and social media platform usage. With this insight, you can develop your website to prominently feature these elements, aligning it with local user habits and preferences to deliver a more resonant experience.

3. Build a capable team

Assemble a team of linguists, translators, developers, UI/UX designers, project managers, and cultural experts. This specialized team ensures accurate translation, culturally relevant design, and technical adaptability. Effective collaboration among these experts accelerates the localization process and helps you enter new markets faster and more efficiently.

4. Perform keyword research

Keyword research is essential for optimizing your site for local search engines. By identifying and leveraging the terms and phrases that your target audience commonly uses in online searches, you can dramatically increase the traffic your site receives.

To facilitate this research process, engage your team of linguists, translators, and cultural experts. Their expertise is invaluable in understanding the nuances of popular search terms, including their context and usage within the local language and culture. This in-depth understanding ensures your selected keywords are accurate and resonate with regional audiences.

After identifying these keywords, optimize your website’s content, metadata, and links to include them. This optimization should be holistic and encompass website elements such as page titles, descriptions, blog posts, and product listings. By strategically embedding these keywords throughout your site, you enhance its relevance and visibility in local SERPs.

For example, consider a travel agency aiming to expand into Spanish-speaking markets. Through keyword research, the agency identifies popular travel-related search terms specific to this audience, including “vacaciones económicas” (affordable vacations) or “destinos populares en España” (popular destinations in Spain). The agency then integrates these keywords into its website — from the homepage all the way down to specific travel package descriptions. Doing so improves the site’s SERP ranking in Spanish-speaking regions and attracts local travelers searching for relevant travel options, ultimately increasing site traffic.

5. Automate the website localization process

Automating the localization process is key to reducing manual errors and efficiently managing multilingual content. Automation ensures consistent and seamless user experiences across different site language versions.

To streamline the localization process, consider investing in a robust content management system (CMS) like Webflow. Such systems let you integrate plugins and automated tools to handle tasks like translation, content updates, and format adjustments, speeding up the process while ensuring uniformity and accuracy across all localized website versions.

6. Incorporate website internationalization

Internationalization makes adding new localized versions of your website simpler, easing the expansion process. To support future localization efforts, ensure your website is flexible enough to accommodate diverse content, date formats, and other area-specific elements.

Consider an ecommerce site that plans to expand to different countries. By internationalizing its code, the site can support multiple languages and currencies to allow for a smooth transition as it expands into new markets. Here, internationalization involves implementing a flexible template system and database structure that dynamically changes according to the user’s location to ensure the site automatically displays the appropriate language, currency, and cultural references.

7. Localize the user experience and user interface

After establishing a flexible coding structure, focus on localizing the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) to make the site intuitive and culturally relevant for each specific audience. This includes customizing visuals, colors, icons, fonts, and layouts to match regional design preferences. You should also adjust navigation elements like menus and button placements to reflect regional user interactions.

For example, while some cultures prefer more visual menus, others opt for text-heavy, straightforward navigation. If you’re localizing for a Middle Eastern audience, you might consider a right-to-left layout to accommodate languages like Arabic and Hebrew, which read differently from the left-to-right orientation of many Western languages. A localized UX/UI contributes to good website design and creates a familiar and user-friendly interface, which drives increased engagement and user satisfaction.

8. Test and launch your website

Before going live, test your localized website to identify and resolve any issues. Check that all features function correctly, including language accuracy and design elements. You can also perform A/B testing by creating two website versions and seeing which performs better with your target audience.

Test your site on different devices and browsers to ensure compatibility, and ask native speakers, linguists, translators, and cultural experts for feedback. Modify your website based on their insights and suggestions to offer your target market a smooth user experience.

9. Market your localized website

Marketing your localized website attracts visitors and makes your target audience aware of your online presence. To market your localized website, launch advertising campaigns on platforms popular in the local market, collaborate with regional influencers, and use social media channels and search engines for outreach.

For instance, if you’re targeting the Japanese market, consider using local social media platforms like LINE for promotions because it boasts a significant Japanese user base. These targeted marketing efforts help communicate your website’s value to the local audience.

Add localization to your Webflow site

Website localization is the gateway to new markets and audiences — and Webflow’s native localization features ensure you cover all your bases. Whether it’s changing your site structure or tweaking content for regional relevance, Webflow’s user-friendly design tools and CMS make it effortless.

If you’re ready to scale globally, discover how Webflow Localization can help you build a more engaging and inclusive digital presence today.

Customize your site for visitors around the world

From design to translation to best-in-class SEO, Webflow Localization is an end-to-end solution for customizing your site for a worldwide audience.

Learn more
Customize your site for visitors around the world

From design to translation to best-in-class SEO, Webflow Localization is an end-to-end solution for customizing your site for a worldwide audience.

Learn more
Learn more
Last Updated
March 6, 2024
Customize your site for visitors around the world

From design to translation to best-in-class SEO, Webflow Localization is an end-to-end solution for customizing your site for a worldwide audience.

Learn more
Learn more